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Candidates Queueing Up For Fall Elections As Seats Open

Photo of Vermont Statehouse in winter
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file photo)

Now that Vermont Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman is officially running for governor, his decision is setting off a series of other political announcements.
The political leadership in Montpelier is poised for change at the end of 2020.  On Monday, Progressive/Democratic Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman announced he’s running for the state’s top job. Republican Phil Scott is in his second term.  “I will run in the Democratic primary. I will seek the write in on the Progressive ballot, and I'll run under both party names when I win those primaries in order to take on Governor Scott.”

Last July, former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe began her campaign for governor. Monday she released a list of 15 prominent state Democrats endorsing her campaign.  She says she’s looking forward to a primary.  “I’m really looking forward to having robust conversations around the direction of the state, the challenges and needs we face and how we're going to work on good, strong democratic solutions to those challenges. And without someone else in the primary there was no one else to talk to. So I think it's great he's in. You know one of the challenges we have is that currently the incumbent governor has a pretty big podium and he can send his message out all the time. Having a primary gives us a chance to talk about what we could be doing instead. I think it sets us all up better for the general.”

As the gubernatorial candidates now prepare for a primary it appears there will also be a Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor.  Last week Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe confirmed that if Zuckerman ran for governor he would seek the position.  "I feel ready at this moment to kind of bring my vision statewide and I don’t want to miss the chance to do what I think I would really enjoy doing.”

In 2018, Brenda Siegel was among those who lost a five-way primary for governor. In 2020 she will run for Lieutenant Governor.  “You preside over the Senate but in addition to that you really can make the seat what you want to make it and what I want to make it is a way to really build that grassroots movement we need in Vermont to see the changes that we want and need to see.”

Like Ashe, Siegel says her decision was predicated on Zuckerman’s decision to run for governor.   “I would not have gone against David in the Lieutenant Governor’s seat because he's been doing a great job with really the issues that I have been fighting and caring about for a long time.”

Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis expects a competitive gubernatorial race.  “The conventional wisdom would say that Zuckerman is the incumbent lieutenant governor, someone who's run a couple of statewide races before, would have the advantage over Rebecca Holcombe. But she served in a senior position in the administration of both Governor Shumlin and Governor Scott. She has the managerial experience in the education sector. So she'll be a competitive candidate in the primary.”

And Davis thinks there are more potential candidates yet to come forward.  “Zuckerman’s decision to run, creating an open seat for lieutenant governor, is going to have a cascading effect. I expect they'll be a rather large number of candidates in both the Democratic and Republican primaries for lieutenant governor. Most of them but not all of them incumbent legislators. That opens up seats in the Vermont senate and the Vermont house. So the decision of one person Dave Zuckerman to run for governor is going to have a ripple effect all the way down the ballot.”

Congressman Peter Welch, a Democrat, says while Vermonters have plenty of decisions to make in this presidential election year, he doesn’t expect voters to become interested until at least spring.  “It’s so early in the campaign, I mean, the the primary will be in August. So, the first order of business for the democrats is who will they nominate? Rebecca Holcombe who used to be our Secretary of Education or David Zuckerman our lieutenant governor? And even before we get through that most of the focus on Vermont politics is going to be the legislative session. And the campaigns, both campaigns, will be working really hard, but I think you'll won't see a lot of Vermonter interest in them until probably after the legislative session ends.”

Vermont’s state primary is August 11th and the filing deadline is May 28th.
A national presidential primary is held on Town Meeting Day March 3rd.

No incumbent governor in Vermont has lost a reelection campaign since 1962.  Scott has not announced his plans but is expected to seek a third term.


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